Kaiwhakahauora/Ringa Toi Mamati
Animators and digital artists use software, models, photography and drawings to create still and moving images for advertisements, film, print, web or television.
Animators/digital artists usually earn
$21-$75 per hour
Source: CoCA and Toybox, 2018.
Pay for animators/digital artists varies depending on skills, experience and the type of work they do.
- Graduate animators usually start on minimum wage.
- 2D animators/digital artists usually earn between $21 and $50 an hour.
- 3D animators/digital artists can earn between $21 and $75 an hour.
Self-employed animators/digital artists may be paid by the frame/picture.
Sources: Massey University College of Creative Arts, 2018; Toybox, 2018; careers.govt.nz research, 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Animators/digital artists may do some or all of the following:
- meet with directors, clients or employers and agree on a brief (work plan)
- plan animation and design work for their team
- illustrate books and other print media
- build models, puppets or sets, or hand-draw or paint characters, and give them skin surfaces with texture and colour
- film models and hand-drawn animations
- create 3D mesh wireframes to produce backdrops for 2D and 3D animation scenes
- use computer programmes to "rig" characters, giving them skeletons that allow them to be animated
- use computer animation programmes to animate characters and objects in 2D or 3D
- direct the filming of motion capture (recording physical movements that are then translated into digital images)
- be involved in hiring and managing staff.
Skills and knowledge
Depending on the media they work with, animators/digital artists need to have:
- drawing, painting and design skills, if they are making models
- animation skills (2D and 3D)
- coding skills
- knowledge of animation software
- an understanding of how people and animals move and express their feelings
- the ability to create different moods and feelings in characters
- knowledge of print, film, television or video game production.
- often work irregular hours and may be required to work evenings and weekends to complete projects
- often work on contracts, which may range from two weeks to two years
- usually work in offices or workshops, and may move frequently from location to location on different projects.
What's the job really like?
Animator/digital artist video
Izzy and Qeyloux check out careers in animation and design at Maui Studios – 5.38 mins.
It just made me famous.
Izzy: Hey Bestie!
Izzy: I’m thinking.
Qeyloux: I’m not, I never do.
Izzy: Well you should be.
Qeyloux: About what?
Izzy: A career after school.
Qeyloux: Ok, so let’s do it.
Qeyloux: Kia Ora Bro, what’s your guy’s name?
Vincent: Aw Bro, my name is Vinny Egan.
Madison: I’m Madison Henry Ryan
Izzy: Where do you guys work?
Vincent: Ah we work at this creative place called Maui Studios in the building known as The Promised Land and we are part of the Digital Natives.
Qeyloux: What exactly do you guys do here?
Madison: We’re like those kinda creative entrepreneurial type dudes, if you were to label us we would probably be digital Haututū. We just like came up from Dunedin, graduated in Dunedin and we found ourselves in this epic, creative environment that’s thriving full of CEO’s and Māori people who are just striving to achieve the best that they can be.
Izzy: What inspired you guys to get into this sort of industry, into Maui Studios?
Vincent: I suppose that a lot of it is the fact that we are Haututū so we’re like those cats that grew up in High School always getting in trouble for drawing on our books and stuff like that. That kind of translated like after we finished our degrees and started like internships and things like that. That same kinda nature just kept propping up, instead of doing our other work we would be I don’t know working on websites or designing characters or whatever.
So we just kind of rolled with that whole Haututū idea and ended up turning it into a business and career somehow.
Izzy: Could you give us a specific example of barriers that you’ve had to cross?
Madison: Ultimately it’s like, you have to pay the bills at the end of the day obviously but at the same time you wanna be chasing your passions or chasing what you are passionate about. That’s why the whole idea of us staying late nights at the studio, working for free, just doing things that you are keen to do.
Vincent: Failures are so key, if you make sure that you are learning from them. Cos like you could fail a thousand times and if you don’t take anything from it then it’s definitely a bad thing for you but if you make a big like stuff up and then you find out what it is that you did wrong during that stuff up and then you do things to make sure it never happens again, then that failure if anything it looks like a step forward, instead of like a step back.
Qeyloux: Hey Bro, what are you up to?
Madison: Just having a jam here at one of our Ngā Atua Māori, so this fella here is Rongomatane he’s like the god of peace and cultivated food.
I’ll just go through a bit of the process with you, sort of broken all down into layers, so at the moment come down, go all the way down and start off with just lines and then as you come along you add another layer of colours and then you are trying to build a bit more detail so we add shades that sort of builds and you can add highlight and stuff like that.
Izzy: Kia Ora
Vincent: Bro we should have a jam.
Qeyloux: Bro we’re good.
Vincent: Have a go, bro just have a go.
So you see I am doing this on the left-hand side of these kind of rocks things.
Qeyloux: Yeah so the sun is kind of coming in, the lights coming from over here.
Vincent: Mean Bro, Go on…
Vincent: Bro you are just a natural man…smashing it.
Vincent: Izzy I am gonna give you a lesson too so we are gonna go have a jam on the whiteboard.
Sweet Izzy so I am gonna give you a real brief lesson on how to do character design.
So it’s just basically understanding the individual ideas that are going to make this character up.
Izzy: Do you want to evaluate this masterpiece?
Vincent: Yeah see that’s mean! You get a pass!
Tama: So let’s re-cap what we just learned.
You can pay your bills and chase your passions.
Gain experience by volunteering.
Be ok with making sacrifices to achieve your goals and dreams.
If you stuff up, find out why and learn from it.
Showcase your creativity in today’s epic digital environment.
Sometimes it’s good to be a Haututū.
Make sure you check out our other awesome industry videos on the Māia website.
To become an animator/digital artist you need to be able to show the quality of your work. You can do this either through a portfolio of work or a website, or a showreel with a shot list.
Employers usually require you to have one or all of the following:
- experience in a particular type of animation
- experience with particular animation software
- a tertiary qualification such as a Bachelor of Creative Media Production, Bachelor of Design majoring in visual communication design, or a Diploma in Animation.
- Massey University College of Creative Arts website - information on the Bachelor of Creative Media Production
- Massey University website - information on the Bachelor of Design majoring in visual communication design
- Media Design School website - information on animation courses
- Yoobee website - information on film and animation courses
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include design and visual communication (graphics), digital technologies, art history, maths, te reo Māori and painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking combined.
Animators/digital artists need to be:
- creative and imaginative
- disciplined, motivated and good at setting goals
- comfortable promoting themselves and their work
- adaptable, and able to accept criticism of their work
- able to work well under pressure and to deadlines
- good communicators.
Useful experience for animators/digital artists includes:
- drawing, life drawing, cartooning or graphic design experience
- experience in film or photography
- computer design and drawing experience
- computer programming experience
- experience in animation software.
What are the chances of getting a job?
Strong competition for entry-level animator/digital artist jobs
Competition for entry-level animator/digital artist jobs is strong. For graduates, chances of getting a job are best if you:
- have showreels of your work that target an employers' needs
- promote your personal brand (your unique skills, style and technique)
- showcase your work through social media and websites such as Art Station and The Rookies
- have work experience such as internships, summer scholarships, collaborations, team projects or freelance work
- have a positive, can-do attitude
- network to get your work and name known
- are prepared to adapt to a wide range of tasks and learn new skills rapidly.
According to Massey University's College of Creative Arts, around 60% of their graduates find work related to animation.
According to the Census, 621 animators/digital artists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Experienced and multi-skilled animators/digital artists in demand
There is a shortage of experienced and talented animators/digital artists. They are in demand from animation, advertising and design companies in New Zealand and overseas.
Also in high demand are animators/digital artists with technical skills in coding and computer software, game development, simulation and rendering research, technical directing, rigging and lighting. Animators who can work as producers managing staff or workflows, or have marketing skills are also needed.
Animators/digital artists who combine their animation qualification with computer software development training can increase their chances of finding work.
Multimedia specialist (film animator) appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled animators/digital artists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Most animation work project based
Experienced animators/digital artists are usually employed as freelancers for one-off projects such as commercials, films or events which have a limited production time.
Animators/digital artists need to be able to plan and manage their contracts, and network to find new work.
Types of employers varied
Employers of animators/digital artists include:
- major feature film studios
- television studios
- digital companies that create commercials, TV shows, TV and film credits and music videos
- web and mobile game design companies
- publishing companies.
Animators/digital artists may work as freelancers, or work on contract for companies that offer graphic design, animation and advertising services.
- Boucher, N, project manager - outreach, Massey University College of Creative Arts, careers.govt.nz interview, October 2018.
- Feron, R, lecturer - 3D, Media Design School, careers.govt.nz interview, October 2018.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Miles, N, Toybox, careers.govt.nz interview, October 2018.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Jobs Online Quarterly Report August 2017- August 2018', 2018, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Reece, S, 'SIT to Offer Gaming, Animation Courses', 26 September 2018, (www.odt.co.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Stats NZ, 'The Screen Industry Survey 2016/17', 10 April 2018, (www.stats.govt.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Animators/digital artists may progress to set up their own animation or digital business, or move into management roles.
Animators/digital artists may progress to become narrative designers (designing the stories of games), art directors, animation directors, producers, production managers or technical directors.
Animators/digital artists may specialise in:
- 2D animation or 3D animation
- concept art
- game and app development
- motion scheduling and stop-motion
- previs layout (laying out scenes before they're animated)
- rigging (creating a skeleton for an animation)
- shading and texture
- visual effects.
Last updated 4 April 2022